The very first railway to open in Norfolk is celebrating its 175th Anniversary and community organisations along the route are joining together to mark the occasion.
First opened in 1844, the Railway connecting the City of Norwich with the coast at Great Yarmouth is now part of the Greater Anglia operated Wherry Lines and to celebrate the anniversary the Wherry Lines Community Rail Partnership has joined with community groups and station volunteers to host a number of activities including a special touring exhibition, a free to join Guided Walk taking in some of the outstanding natural beauty of the line, a model railway display and a station tea party.
Authorised by Parliament in 1842, proposers of the new line appointed Robert Stephenson as Chairman and George Stephenson as Engineer with construction undertaken by Messrs Grissel and Peto. The original route ran via the villages of Brundall, Cantley and Reedham and construction work commenced in 1843. A ceremonial opening took place on 30 April 1844 with the first passenger trains running the next day. Following construction, Samuel Morton Peto, who had purchased both the Somerleyton Estate and Lowestoft Harbour, obtained permission to create a railway east of Reedham to Lowestoft which opened in the Summer of 1847. A second, more direct route from Norwich to Yarmouth via Lingwood and Acle opened in 1883 and these routes form the modern-day Wherry Lines. Brundall Gardens Halt, funded privately by Norfolk cinema impresario FH Cooper opened in 1924.
A small exhibition about the railway produced by the East Norfolk Transport Users Association is currently running at Great Yarmouth Library until May 12, and will then tour to Gorleston Library (May 20 – June 1), Brundall CO-OP and Post Office (June 3 – 15), Reedham Community Centre (June 18 – 23) and Reedham Station Heritage Room (June 24 -30). The CO-OP at Brundall will also host a family event on the morning of June 8.
This Saturday 4 May, Cantley Station adopter team host a Model Railway Exhibition on the station platform between 10am and 2pm with refreshments available and the opportunity to view and hear more about the stations’ award-winning gardens.
This Sunday 5 May, a free to join Guided Walk from Buckenham Station starting at 11.15 (connecting out of 10.58 from Norwich and 09.46 from Lowestoft) and led by Trevor Garrod, the 5mile route follows paths and tracks past the church and over the ridge to Strumpshaw village. Then via quiet roads, past Strumpshaw Hall to Strumpshaw Fen RSPB reserve, ending with a stroll along the lane back to Buckenham station.
At Reedham, the Station Heritage Room will be open during the day to visitors from June 24-30, Reedham Station Adopters will also host a Tea Party on May 11 (2 – 4pm), with more events to be announced over the coming months.
The Wherry Lines are currently undergoing a major £60M modernisation scheme by Network Rail which will see the replacement of the Victorian signalling system. To facilitate this, part of the original route via Berney Arms is temporarily out of action with trains being diverted via Acle. Rail Operator Greater Anglia is also set to begin introducing its brand-new fleet of three and four car bi-mode trains from later this year.
Alan Neville, Greater Anglia’s Customer and Community Engagement Manager said, “I am grateful to the Wherry Lines Community Rail Partnership, the station adopter volunteers and user groups for hosting this special series of events to mark the lines 175th Anniversary and in doing so, putting the railway at the very heart of the communities it serves. With significant investment currently underway on routes from Norwich to the coast, including new signalling and a brand-new fleet of trains, this anniversary year heralds a bright new era for passengers.”